Pictured attending the launch of the RTE All Ireland Drama Festival 2022 in The Abbey Theatre, Dublin, recently, were, from left: Festival Adjudicator Michael Poynor ,RTE's Nuala Carey & Festival Ambassador, Festival Director Regina Bushell. Mark O'Brien Excutive Director of the Abbey Theatre.

RTÉ All Ireland Drama Festival is back after two-year absence

Athlone is poised to welcome an influx of drama fans and groups later this week as the RTÉ All Ireland Drama Festival makes a triumphant return to the town after a two-year break - just in time to celebrate its 70th year.

Kicking off a feast of drama this Thursday (May 5), is Palace Players from West Cork, who present 'Chapatti' by Christian O'Reilly, a poignant exploration of the importance of human companionship.

In all, nine finalists from Cork, Dublin, Waterford, Wexford, Donegal and Kildare will take to the stage in the Dean Crowe Theatre, Athlone over the nine-day festival in a bid to win the coveted overall prize, having qualified from the 33-strong festival circuit on the island of Ireland in recent months.

Looking forward to welcoming back audiences to the refurbished Dean Crowe Theatre is Festival Director Regina Bushell, Festival Director, who enthused that attendees will meet up with old friends, make new friends and come together once again to experience the magic of live theatre.

“In addition to the usual challenges of competing in festivals around the country, drama groups had to contend with Covid-19 regulations when rehearsing and presenting their plays – some even braving the elements during outdoor rehearsals!

“At this year’s festival, theatre goers are in for a feast of drama, from two-handers (including two from the same playwright) to a brand-new Irish play, as well as a re-imagined classic myth,” she said.

On Friday, May 6, former triple winners, Kilmeen Drama Group, from Cork, presents Tom Murphy’s ‘Conversations on a Homecoming’, while Bunclody-Kilmyshall Drama Group, from Wexford, will perform ‘The Good Father’ on May 7.

Next up on May 8 are Ballyduff Drama Group, from Waterford. They were the first group to qualify as a finalist and the group will perform the poignant and moving ‘Rabbit Hole’ a Pulitzer prize-winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire, which tells the story of a married couple grieving the loss of their young son in a car accident.

Moving north, Butt Drama Circle from county Donegal presents a brand-new play by Shaun Byrne, who is also the director, on May 9. ‘An Incident with Dave Cotter' is set against the background of the events of Bloody Sunday. Double winners (2018/2019) Prosperous Dramatic Society from Kildare presents the chaotic and at times savage comedy ‘God of Carnage’ by Yasmina Reza on May 10.

Next up is Kilrush Drama Group in Wexford, who present the Edinburgh Fringe First award-winning ‘Class’ by Iseult Golden & David Horan on May 11, while the second Donegal finalists Ballyshannon Drama Society are back in Athlone to perform Arthur Miller’s first major work ‘All My Sons’ on May 12.

Former winners Dalkey Players from Dublin will close the festival on May 13 with their production of ‘Eurydice’ by Sarah Ruhl, a re-imagination of the classic myth.

The nine-day festival, which is held under the auspices of the Amateur Drama Council of Ireland, showcases the very best of Irish amateur theatre and attracts hundreds of visitors from across the country to the Midlands every year from May 5 to 13 inclusive at 8pm nightly. The 2022 Festival Adjudicator is Michael Poynor.

There are still a limited number of tickets for some of the plays, to book go to the Dean Crowe website at http://www.deancrowetheatre.com or call the theatre box office 090 6492129.